Genetic Diversity in the Americas

We have conducted research into the history and diversity of Indigenous populations of the Americas for over 30 years. In addition to generating foundational papers on mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation in Native American groups, we worked with communities from across the Americas in an effort to learn about their lives and histories, and reconstruct the process of the peopling of the Americas.

In 2005, we expanded these efforts through participation in the the Genographic Project. This project was a major international effort to collect population genetic data from over 100,000 individuals around the world over a ten-year period. At the North American Regional Center based in the LMAP, we investigated the peopling of the Americas through genetic studies of indigenous populations in the US, Canada and Mexico, and the Caribbean, with the initial focus being placed on the characterization of mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation in these groups.

Project research was supported by funding from the National Geographic Society, IBM, the Waitt Family Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania,

Northwest Territories

Photo credit: T.G. Schurr

Nova Scotia

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Photo credit: T.G. Schurr


Photo credit: M.G. Vilar

Puerto Rico

Photo credit: T.G. Schurr

St. Vincent & Trinidad

Photo credit: T.G. Schurr

Dominican Republic

Photo credit: T.G. Schurr



Photo credit: T.G. Schurr


Photo credit: Jamie Shreeve


Photo credit: T.G. Schurr

Genographic Project Photos

North & South American PIs

Genographic Project Gathering in Talinn, Estonia. From left-to-right: T.G. Schurr, Ricardo Fujita, Fabricio Santos, and Pedro Paulo Vieira.

T.G. Schurr at South Naknek, Alaska

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Schurr TG, Ballinger SW, Gan YY, Hodge JA, Merriwether DA, Knowler WC, Weiss KM, Wallace DC. 1990. Amerindian mitochondrial DNAs have rare Asian mutations at high frequencies suggesting a limited number of founders. Am J Hum Genet 46(3): 613-623. PMID: 1968708

Torroni A, Schurr TG, Yang C-C, Szathmary EJE, Williams RC, Schanfield MS, Troup GA, Knowler WC, Lawrence DN, Wallace DC. 1992. Native American mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that the Amerind and the Na-Dené populations were founded by two independent migrations. Genetics 130(1): 153-162.

Torroni A, Schurr TG, Cabell MF, Brown MD, Neel JV, Larsen M, Smith DG, Vullo C, Wallace DC. 1993. Asian affinities and continental radiation of the four founding Native American mitochondrial DNAs. Am J Hum Genet 53(3): 563-590.

Torroni A, Neel JV, Barrantes R, Schurr TG, Wallace DC. 1994. A mitochondrial DNA ‘clock’ for the Amerinds and its implications for timing their entry into North America. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 91(3): 1158-1162.

Lell JT, Brown MD, Schurr TG, Sukernik RI, Starikovskaya EB, Torroni A, Wallace DC. 1997. Y-chromosome polymorphisms in Native American and Siberian populations: Identification of founding Native American Y-chromosome haplotypes. Hum Genet 100(5-6): 536-543.

Brown MD, Hosseini SH, Torroni A, Bandelt H-J, Allen JC, Schurr TG, Scozzari R, Cruciani F, Wallace DC. 1998. Haplogroup X: An ancient link between Europe/Western Asia and North America? Am J Hum Genet 63(6): 1852-1861.

Schurr TG, Wallace DC. 1999. mtDNA variation in Native Americans and Siberians, and its implications for the peopling of the New World. In: Bonnichsen R, editor. Who Were the First Americans: Proceedings of the 58th Annual Biology Colloquium. Corvallis: Center for the Study of the First Americans, pp. 41-77.

Schurr TG. 2000. Mitochondrial DNA variation in Native Americans and Siberians, and its implications for the peopling of the New World. Amer Sci 88(3): 246-253.

Lell JT, Sukernik RI, Starikovskaya YB, Jin L, Su B, Schurr TG, Underhill P, Wallace DC. 2002. The dual origins and Siberian affinities of Native American Y-chromosomes. Am J Hum Genet 70(1): 192-206.

Rubicz R, Schurr TG, Babb P, Crawford MH. 2003. Mitochondrial DNA diversity in modern Aleuts, and their genetic relationship with other circumarctic populations. Hum Biol 75(6): 809-835.

Schurr TG. 2003. A molecular anthropological view of the peopling of the Americas. In: Lepper BT, editor. New Perspectives on the Peopling of the Americas. College Station: Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, pp. 139-147.

Schurr TG. 2004. An anthropological genetic view of the peopling of the Americas. In: Clark GA, Barton CM, Yesner D, Pearson G, editors. The Settlement of the American Continents: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Human Biogeography. Tuscon: Arizona State University Press, pp. 11-27.

Schurr TG, Sherry ST. 2004. Mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome diversity and the peopling of the Americas. Am J Hum Biol 16(4): 420-439.

Schurr TG. 2004. The peopling of the New World: Perspectives from molecular anthropology. Annu Rev Anthropol 33(3): 551-583.

Schurr TG. 2005. Genetic diversity in Siberians and Native Americans suggests an early migration to the New World. In: Madsen DB, editor. Entering America: Northeast Asia and Beringia Before the Last Glacial Maximum. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, pp. 187-238.

Schurr TG. 2006. Tracking genes through time and space: Changing perspectives on New World origins. In: Bonnichsen R, Lepper B, Steele DG, Stanford D, Harris JA, Warren CN, Gruhn R, editors. Paleoamerican Origins: Beyond Clovis. College Station: Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A & M University, pp. 221-242.

Schroeder KB, Schurr TG, Long JC, Rosenberg NA, Grote MN, Crawford MH, Tarskaia L, Osipova LP, Zhadanov SI, Smith DG. 2007. Native Americans descend from a common founding population. Biology Letters 3(2): 218-223.

Schroeder KB, Jakobsson M, Crawford MH, Schurr TG, Simina B, Conrad DF, Tito RY, Osipova LP, Tarskaia LA, Zhadanov SI, Wall JD, Pritchard JK, Malhi RS, Smith DG, Rosenberg NA. 2009. Haplotypic background of a private allele at high frequency in the Americas. Mol Biol Evol 26: 995-1016.

Schurr TG. 2010. Coastal waves and island hopping: A genetic view of Caribbean prehistory in the context of New World colonization. In: SM Fitzpatrick, A Ross, editors. Island Shores, Distant Pasts: Archaeological and Biological Approaches to the Pre-Columbian Settlement of the Caribbean. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, pp. 177-198.

Kemp BM, Schurr TG. 2010. Ancient and modern genetic variation in the Americas. In: Auerbach B, editor. Human Variation in the Americas: The Integration of Archeology and Biological Anthropology. Carbondale: Center for Archeological Investigations, Occasional Paper No. 38, Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 12-50.

Zhadanov SI, Dulik MC, Markley M, Jennings G, Gaieski JB, Elias G, Schurr TG, The Genographic Consortium. 2010. Genetic heritage and native identity of the Seaconke Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. Am J Phys Anthropol 142(4): 579-589.

Gaieski JB, Owings AC, Vilar MG, Dulik MC, Gaieski D, Gittelman RM, Lindo J, Gau L, Schurr TG, The Genographic Consortium. 2011. Genetic ancestry and indigenous heritage in a Native American descendant community in Bermuda. Am J Phys Anthropol 46(3): 392–405.

Schurr TG, Dulik MC, Owings AC, Zhadanov SI, Gaieski JB, Vilar MG, Ramos J, Moss MB, Natkong F, The Genographic Consortium. 2012. Clan, language and migration history have shaped genetic diversity in Haida and Tlingit populations from southeast Alaska. Am J Phys Anthropol 148: 422-435. PMID: 22549307

Dulik MC, Owings AC, Gaieski JB, Vilar MG, Andre A, Lennie C, Mackenzie MA, Kritsch I, Snowshoe S, Wright R, Martin J, Gibson N, Andrews TD, Schurr TG, The Genographic Consortium. 2012. Y-chromosome analysis reveals genetic divergence and new founding native lineages in Athapaskan and Eskimoan-speaking populations. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109(22): 8471-8476.

Elhaik E, Greenspan E, Staats S, Krahn T, Tyler-Smith C, Xue Y, Tofanelli S, Francalacci P, Cucca F, Pagani P, Jin L, Li H, Schurr TG, Greenspan B, Wells RS, The Genographic Consortium. 2013. The GenoChip: A new tool for genetic anthropology. Genome Biol Evol 5: 1021-1031.

Elhaik E, Tatarinova T, Chebotarev D, Piras IS, Calò CM, De Montis A, Atzori M, Marini M, Tofanelli S, Francalacci P, Pagani L, Tyler-Smith C, Xue Y, Cucca F, Schurr TG, Gaieski JB, Melendez C, Vilar MG, Owings AC, Gomez R, Fujita R, Santos FR, Comas D, Balanovsky O, Balanovska E, Zalloua P, Soodyall H, Pitchappan R, GaneshPrasad A, Hammer M, Matisoo-Smith L, Wells RS, The Genographic Consortium. 2014. Geographic population structure (GPS) of worldwide human populations infers biogeographical origins. Nat Commun 5: 3513 doi:10.1038/ncomms4513.

Vilar MG, Melendez C, Sanders A, Walia A, Gaieski JB, Owings AC, Schurr TG, The Genographic Consortium. 2014. Genetic diversity in Puerto Rico and its implications for the peopling of the West Indies. Am J Phys Anthropol 155: 352–368.

Benn Torres J, Vilar MG, Torres G, Gaieski JB, Bharath Hernandez R, Browne ZE, Stevenson M, Waters W, Schurr TG, The Genographic Consortium. 2015. Genetic diversity in Carib and Garifuna populations of the Lesser Antilles reveals significant indigenous ancestry and insights into Caribbean settlement history. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0139192.

Schurr TG. 2015. Tracing human movements from Siberia to the Americas: New insights from genetic studies. In: Frachetti MB, Spengler RN, III, editors. Mobility and Ancient Society in Asia and the Americas. Basel: Springer, pp. 23-47.

Jota MS, Lacerda DR, Sandoval JR, Vieira PPR, Soares DOQ, Santos-Júnior JE, Acosta O, Cuellar C, Revollo S, Paz-y-Miño C, Fujita R, Vallejo GA, Schurr TG, Tarazona-Santos EM, Peña SDJ, Ayub Q, Tyler-Smith C, Santos FR, The Genographic Consortium. 2016. New native South American Y-chromosome lineages. J Hum Genet 61(7): 593-603. DOI: 10.1038/jhg.2016.26.

Schurr TG, Benn Torres J, Vilar MG, Gaieski JB, Melendez C. 2016. An emerging history of indigenous Caribbean and circum-Caribbean populations: Insights from archeological, ethnographic, genetic and historical studies. In: Zuckerman M, Martin DL, editors. New Directions in Biological Anthropology: Papers Honoring the Legacy of George Armelagos. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, pp. 385-402.

Benn Torres J, Martucci V, Aldrich MC, Vilar MG, MacKinney T, Tariq M, Gaieski JB, Bharath Hernandez R, Browne ZE, Stevenson M, Walters W, Schurr TG, The Genographic Consortium. 2019. Analysis of biogeographic ancestry reveals complex genetic histories for indigenous communities of St. Vincent and Trinidad. Am J Phys Anthropol 169(3): 482-497.

Schurr TG. 2019. Where tides of genes perpetual ebb and flow: What DNA evidence tells us about the peopling of the Americas. In: Suarez R, Ardelean C, editors. People and Culture in Ice Age Americas: New Dimensions in Paleoamerican Archeology. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, pp. 220-243.

Paulino-Ramirez R, Oakley E, Vega B, Vilar MG, Mencia-Ripley A, Tapia L, Guerrero-Martinez S, Benitez A, Schurr TG. 2019. Diversidad genética en ADN mitocondrial en la República Dominicana: Implicaciones para la historia y demografía de la Española. Clío: Journal of the Domincan Academy of History 88(197): 193-206.

Gómez MR, Vilar MG, Meraz MA, Figueroa-Corona P, Véliz D, Zúniga G, Hernández EA, Figueroa-Corona P, Owings AC, Gaieski JB, Schurr TG, The Genographic Consortium. 2021. Y-chromosome diversity in Aztlan descendants and its implications for the history of Central Mexico. iScience 24: 102487.

Gómez R, Schurr TG, Meraz-Ríos MA. 2021. Diversity of Mexican paternal lineages reflects evidence of 500 years of admixture. In: Muñoz Moreno ML, Crawford MH, editors. Human Migration: Biocultural Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Laboratory of Molecular Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
421 University Museum
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Philadelphia, PA 19104-6398, USA
Tel: 215-573-2656